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Thread: Long term ammunition storage: potential safety issues (long)

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    Long term ammunition storage: potential safety issues (long)

    While processing a deer this year to put choice cuts of venison into vacuum sealed bags, my friend asked if I stored ammunition this way, too.
    I don’t, and hadn’t even considered it, so I researched it.
    As expected, there are many posts on firearm, homesteader, and prepper forums about long term storage of a wide variety of items, including ammunition. They mostly pre-supposed that this was a sound idea: after all, foreign governments, and even our own CMP sells off millions of rounds of surplus ammunition. It must be OK, right? That rabbit hole seems to be very deep. These sections seemed most useful.

    WARNING: long read ahead!

    If you don’t want to read detailed discussions on the topic of storing ammunition, vacuum packed or not, here’s the Cliff Notes:

    1. Write dates on reloads/purchases of recently manufactured ammunition so you have data to manage rotation of ammunition.
    2. Don’t shoot ammunition (or use gunpowder for reloading) over 25 years old - ever! …20 years may be OK if properly stored (cool and dry) and no corrosion, deterioration of packaging, or off-gassing smell.

    I downloaded these discussions which took place on the CMP forum in 2009 and TheHighroad in 2012. I don’ t know the science has changed much. I’m sure the ammunition industry has made changes to powder and primer formulations, but have not seen updates that change the basic guidance listed above.

    Most items have links. The discussions start from here:

    “Each of the services has Program Managers for Ammunition, schools, and ammunition specialists who have access to chemical labs. You can read the quarterlies the Marine Corp Program Manager for Ammunition creates at this web site:
    http://www.marcorsyscom.usmc.mil/am/...y/AMMO_Qtr.asp

    You can look up the Marine Corp Ammunition MOS here : http://usmilitary.about.com/od/enlistedjo2/a/2311.htm and there is chatter about a two month course http://www.leatherneck.com/forums/sh...2311-Ammo-Tech

    I met a Naval Insensitive Munitions expert and he had a PhD in Chemical Engineering. That was how I found out about the problems of old ammunition, even though information is easily found with a Google search. Each first world country maintains an educated cadre of Ammunition Specialists and they have an excellent understanding of the problems of old ammunition .
    “And what we experience is not nearly as dismal as what the report suggests. For example, the HXP, though almost 50 years old, is holding up well so far. The army needs its ammo plant in constant operation in case an emergency arises, even through long intervals of peace. Thus the need for studies that justify a policy of limited shelf life and regular stock turnover. By contrast the Greeks hung onto all of their .30-06 until they no longer had use for that caliber. So, some combination of chemistry and policy at work.

    This is basically a logical argument but not one based on kinetics, chemistry, or the real world. I think it is based on someone’s expectations that their hoard would last forever. I would like to ask, why of all the compounds in the universe is only gunpowder immortal? What exact chemistry/composition/thermodynamics prevents gunpowder from deteriorating into a low energy compound? If this property could be bottled and sold, the profits would be enormous.

    One thing we do know about the military, is that now days, it has to cover its costs. There was a time when the Army issued one million single heat 03’s knowing full well that a high percentage were going to fragment and cause permanent injury to an enlisted man. However, since the costs of long term rehabilitation and disability were carried by another organization, this was the lowest cost alternative for the Army. It was a lot cheaper than replacing one million defective low number 03 Springfields. Today, things have changed. Injuring a Soldier/Sailor/Marine is expensive, the long term costs to the Army are very expensive. This article claims $2 Million per injured Soldier in the Afghan fiasco. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articl...e-US-2-million This does not make any of the militaries a spend thrift in terms of tossing out ammunition. Ammunition is not cheap and disposal has to follow procedures. I can’t speak for the Greeks, but I suspect like all of the first world countries, someone with formal training, procedures, and chemical laboratories to test, went through their stockpile and decided that it was 1) unsafe to store and 2) unsafe to issue.

    For those claiming that old ammunition is good, what is your basis? If it is a matter of having fired enough old ammunition and nothing has happened (yet), is that evidence of knowledge, evidence of skill, or just luck?

    I used to have these arguments with smokers. Back in the day the old line engineer had a coffee cup in the right hand and a cigarette in the left. Smokers came up with all sorts of arguments that cigarettes did not cause cancer. They had all sorts of anecdotal evidence: the Uncle who smoked two packs a day, drank a case of beer every weekend with a 5th of whisky, and lived to a 100. Almost all of these deniers died quick when they came down with cancer. You keep on playing the risky odds and they will catch up with you. The fact is, you don’t know where your surplus was stored, you don’t know why it is on the market. You don’t know anything except that someone sold it to you as “clean and sure fire”. I have not checked, but I bet it does not come with a warranty, and if you hurt yourself, it is not the seller’s problem. In short, you traded your money for a bunch of magic beans.

    If you don’t recognize or understand that ammunition increases in pressure as it gets old, then you will be a baffled as these posters were when trying to determine a mechanical issue, for a problem that were thermodynamic in nature.”

    HXP at Perry . . .

    http://forums.thecmp.org/showthread.php?t=115939

    HXP 77 was the culprit. I won't shoot that stuff. A whole bunch of heavy bolt handle lifts in the 03 matches when it was issued at Perry. I have fired a lot of HXP 70, 72 & 73 with no issues at all, 03's and M1's.

    Tombguard, What Ceresco is implying is that while HXP 77 ammo exhibited frequent and sometimes severe issues (excessive bolt lift force, dismounted op rods, duds, hangfires, etc.) there is the concern that other lots will have the same issues but with perhaps lesser frequency. If a manufacturing process doesn't have robust QC practices, more issues are lurking out there like snakes in the grass. I am not saying that you should avoid HXP ammo - I'm just saying that one should be aware that systemically the issues might extend beyond HXP 77 ammo

    In the 2007 Perry matches it was '88 dated ammo that gave a lot of 03A3 fits on opening. I keep the saved round I had in rapids beside the silver medal I earned with 29 rounds. Believe me when I tell you it was locking those bolts up TIGHT. (As in roll out of position and beat them open.)

    Stiff Bolt Handle on SC 03a3

    http://forums.thecmp.org/showthread....h+pressure+gre ek
    Took my SC 03a3 to the range a week ago, shooting fairly good groups at 100yds (~2MOA) with unsorted HXP. Had a problem though - occasionally the bolt handle would be VERY difficult to lift open. Never had that before with new production ammo, other sessions with HXP, and never had a problem when dry-firing (snap caps, etc). Didn't break anything evident, and everything APPEARS to function correctly. The brass all looks like I expect (There is some minor pitting in the chamber which shows on the brass, but does not effect extraction), it just felt like I needed a hammer or a crow bar to lift the bolt handle sometimes (but not always). Any ideas as to what is going wrong

    Typical HXP problem. It will often be hard to chamber some rounds as well. I had 3 saved rounds in 2006 at the Western Games 1903 match when round 7 could not be extracted from the chamber and no one had a BFH handy. A wooden mallet later helped extract the round. That was in a pristine M1903 Remington with a perfect chamber. All other ammo I feed it functions perfectly. I have a 1903A3 that also has issues with HXP. About 10-20% of some lots are very long in the shoulder. I have a couple rounds that won't chamber in a 1903 at all. It almost looks like I put a No-Go gage in the chamber.

    If it is only when you shoot HXP new ammo that is your problem and your answer. It's a problem that has existed with a great many bolt guns since the very first day that CMP began selling HXP ammo and has been much discussed in this forum and others for several years (and see, even today). It was a common complaint among shooters for years at the regional CMP Games and the Nationals when CMP was issuing HXP as the required ammo to use. As I stated before, in 2006, if you walked the line in every relay of the 1903 match you would see shooters having to slap bolts closed and struggle to get bolts open. Many saved rounds in rapid fire were the result and the reason for the many complaints for several years.

    I doubt there is a single thing wrong with your rifle or anyone's rifle that is experiencing this problem with HXP in bolt guns. If other ammo feeds and extracts without problems you have the answer already. The long and short of it .....no pun intended....is the ammo, not the rifle. HXP brass is some of the greatest re-loadable brass out there but, it often sucks the first time around through a bolt gun. Nature of the beast.

    All you have to do, to find Kabooms with surplus or old ammunition, is search for them. The number of accounts of blown guns with old ammunition is quite surprising, given, the denialism.

    HK Blown up with Brazilian Surplus

    http://www.jerzeedevil.com/forums/sh...5-Gun-Blown-up

    1. Gun Blown up

    Hello gang i was just wondering if any of you guys have ever blown up a gun while shooting. I had the unfortunate luck of blowing up an HK-91 back around 1989. Me and a buddy of mine were buying cases of mil surplus from a company in ohio at the time in 1000 rd. cases. We had gotten a few cases from said company and never had any issues. Well the last case we got from them was from brazil cbc i believe it was. He called me and said he was having jamming issues with this ammo in his sar-48 bush gun. I told him well i'll go out with you and run some through my 91 it'll eat anything. Well the third round out of the 91 "BOOM" pretty scary it was.

    I think you can have or get a bad round or lot of ammo with any manufacturer. That being said the ammo that blew my 91 up was military surplus from brazil. Thats the problem with mil surplus its put onto the market because its deemed not worthy of use for the military of said country.

    So you get some good some bad you take your chances. But when your setting off small explosions with each trigger pull in your weapon anything can happen at any time with any manufacturers product.

    Just be sure to wear eye and ear protection and good gloves are'nt a bad idea either. "******** HAPPENS" you know, don't you just love that saying.
    Be safe and have a great weekend.

    Posted 17 July 2012 - 01:29 PM
    'Tailgunner', on 17 Jul 2012 - 13:16, said:

    I picked up some surplus ammo a couple of years ago and had a couple of hang fires. The hammer would drop and a second later the rifle would discharge.

    After that happened a couple of times, I decided I wasn't going to shoot that stuff any more. So I took the ammo apart, thinking I'd at least salvage the brass. After I'd pulled all of the bullets and dumped the powder, I tried chucking the primed cases in a vice and then hit the primers with a pin punch and a hammer.
    I found that some of the primers would "pop" but others would just sizzle and smoke. I'm pretty sure those were my hang fires. It was an interesting experiment

    The last surplus ammo I had looked so bad that I never fired any of it. Like you, I took it apart. The powder was clumped together. The base of the bullet was green with corrosion. I decapped all the brass, burned the primers and powder outside when burning rubbish, and sold the brass and bullets to a scrap company. Recouped a very small amount of initial price. That was the last time I got fooled on surplus ammo crap.

    My guess is that most of the foreign countries that are selling surplus goods to the USA, don't care much about how they handle or store the items, as long as it gets on the shipping container and they pocket the purchase price, they are happy. Caveat emptor is Latin for "Let the buyer beware." It especially applies to surplus goods that have a shelf life. Where was it stored? How was it stored? What temperature? Subjected to water or salt air? Exposed to a structure fire? How was it transported? Etc. etc...too many unanswered questions. A deal that is too good to be true, usually is too good to be true.

    http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost....80&postcount=6


    http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost....80&postcount=6

    Although it's remotely possible that a defective load (very unlikely if factory ammo) or poorly stored ammo that had deterioated. I had some H450 go bad and an "accuracy" load from a .30/06 w/180gr bullet locked up the bolt and removed case looked like a belted magnum...... but gun was unharmed.... primer was blown however and pitted the bolt face...... I pulled down the rest of the ammo and powder "stunk" like vinegar and inside of cases were turning green from acid corrosion..... Ammo had only been loaded 6mos earlier... and powder looked and smelled "ok" then.
    Bad Bad 7.62x25 Ammo

    http://www.ramanon.com/forum/showthr...d-7-62x25-Ammo

    You have probably read my recent thread on a CZ-52 and FTF problems. I expected it was the pistol that had the problem. A few days ago I took it to the range again with the same can of mil-surp ammo after polishing suspect surfaces in the pistol as the possible cause of its problem.

    Right away I had the same FTF problem. The slide would not quite close all the way on a round. I had to nudge the slide fully into battery all too often.

    So I began to think of other possible causes of the FTF and examined the ammo I was firing. I might have the answer. The surplus 7.62x25 ammo had cracks in the brass of unfired ammo! Often right where a dimple was is in the case that held the bullet head into the case. Sometimes sizeable cracks between the dimples.

    Take a look at these unfired cartridges and the cracks. This defective ammo could explain my feeding problem

    http://www.gunandgame.com/forums/pow...-ok-print.html

    For those that think old ammo is still ok....

    A buddy of mine took his Sig p220 .45 down the range with us the other weekend. He had some old winchester hollowpoints that looked like they had been buried for 30 years. With myself still being new to guns and shooting, i didnt think anything about it.

    Well he took one shot and it blow up in his hand. Now he has shot numerous rounds through this gun without a problem, of course they were new. Anyway, noone was hurt but the sig. This is hte way the gun is stuck in. It will not budge. Id say its a nice new paperwieght

    Garand Blowup with WWII ball

    http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost....3&postcount=13

    I have an old shooting buddy who some years ago was shooting some WWII ball (don’t know whose) but his M-1 was disassembled in a rather rapid fashion. He was lucky only his pride was hurt. He said he took a round apart and found rust looking dust along with the powder. Bad powder. Just sayin…..The op rod can be rebuilt which might be a good way to go. Op Rods are getting harder to find and when you find one a premium price is required so it seems. Garands require grease. I’m not sure if you are aware of this. If you are, please no offence taken.

    Garand Blowup with old US ammunition.

    http://www.socnet.com/showthread.php?p=1344088

    There was a thread on another forum titeled “What’s in your ammo can” and many guys had old surpluss ammo so I told this story. Ty (arizonaguide) asked that I come put it here also so here it is boys, draw your own conclutions.

    Back in the mid 80s my Dad and a bunch of us went shooting in Arizona. Dad had a couple thousand rounds of WWII surplus .30M1 (30-06) ammo that looked great on the outside cut his M1 in half in his hands. He was kneeling with elbow on knee when the first round of this ammo went BOOM! We were all pelted with sand and M1 shrapnel.

    When the dust cleared Dad was rolling around on his back with buttstock in one hand, for stock in the other, barrel and receiver hanging by the sling around his arm trying to yell “mortar” thinking he was back on Okinawa in battle. The blast had removed his ear muffs, hat, glasses, and broke the headlight in my truck 15 feet away but Dad was only shook up and scratched a bit once he got his wits back. It sheared off the bolt lugs, blew open the receiver front ring, pushed all the guts out the bottom of the magazine, and turned the middle of the stock to splinters.

    After a couple hours of picking up M1 shrapnel we headed to the loading bench and started pulling bullets. Some of the powder was fine, some was stuck together in clumps, and some had to be dug out with a stick. It didn’t smell and was not dusty like powder usuley is when it’s gone bad. Put it in a pie tin and light it and it seemed a tad fast but not so you would think it could do that, wasent like lighting a pistol powder even. He had 2000 rounds of this stuff and nun of us were in any mood to play with it much after what we watched so it all went onto a very entertaining desert bon fire. I got the M1 splinters when Dad died last year and will post pix here below for your parousal and entertainment.

    Anyway, I no longer play with any ammo I am not 100% sure has always been stored properly . . . cheap shooting ain’t worth the risk to me anymore! I still buy surpluss if the price in right but I unload and reload it with powder I am sure of or just use the brass.

    She was a good shooting servasable Winchester M1 before this.

    This is a very good thread with excellent pictures. Gunpowder can deteriorate in less than 25 years:

    http://www.falfiles.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3745264

    Has anyone else had Vihtavuori N140 corrode in loaded ammo?

    I pulled two boxes (100 rounds total) of .308 ammo out of the safe I loaded about ten years ago and found some of them had blue powdery stuff coming out of the necks. I pulled a few rounds down and the inside case walls were powdery blue. The base of the bullets were corroded and blue. None of the other .308 ammo in the safe loaded with Varget has this problem. None of my pistol ammo looks to have anything wrong, but I haven't unloaded any of them. None of my blued guns have any rust. It's not a moist environment issue.

    I've never had this happen before. Spent a lot of money loading this ammo for my AR-10 and used new brass, CCI BR2 primers, and N140 powder. It's all junk now.

    What made me check it was I shot my AR-10 that's been sitting idle for about 8 years. Same ammo as what's in the boxes I checked. Out of the first ten rounds from the mag that was in the gun three blew primer pockets. I unloaded the rest of the cartridges and they were corroded.”
    Last edited by Bruce in WV; 12-17-22 at 08:39.
    Yankee refugee living in the free state of West Virginia.

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    You expect people to read a post that is that long ?

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    I didnít read all of that post. I have lots of powder and ammo. None of it is vacuum sealed.

    I have every expectation it will last far longer than I will.

    Keep it in a cool, dry, temp stable environment and it will out last you.

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    ^This^. Same.
    A true "Gun Guy" (or gal) should have familiarity and a modicum of proficiency with most all firearms platforms.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce in WV View Post
    2. Don’t shoot ammunition (or use gunpowder for reloading) over 25 years old - ever! …20 years may be OK if properly stored (cool and dry) and no corrosion, deterioration of packaging, or off-gassing smell.
    Absolute insanity.

    Most of my stuff doesn't sit that long anyway, but I've never read a single legit account of Age being a problem with ammo/components. EVEN is stored in less than perfect conditions.
    "What would a $2,000 Geissele Super Duty do that a $500 PSA door buster on Black Friday couldn't do?" - Stopsign32v

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    This is obviously a contentious issue, but those who are buying ammunition with “older” manufacture dates should be aware of safety issues, especially if intending to use under dire circumstances. Hopefully someone with current academic, industry, or military small arms/munitions expertise and credentials - an Insensitive Munitions expert - will chime in and clarify the science of propellants and priming compounds.
    Last edited by Bruce in WV; 12-29-22 at 16:27.
    Yankee refugee living in the free state of West Virginia.

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    Itís not controversial at all.

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    Years ago I posted at S and P pics of some East German X39 that we had forgotten about in cardboard cases. The boxes soaked moisture up and fell apart. A good portion of each case had about 100 rounds each that looked like absolute crap. Mainly the rust was on the rim and primer pocket. Right where I would expect moisture to cause failures.

    When I cycled through those 5-6 cases I shot all but a few of the really, really bad looking cases. They all fired.

    I ain't too worried about factory ammo stored in ammo cans.
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    I haven't had issues using old milsurp ammo.
    Just cracked open my last case of Portuguese 7.62 NATO dated 1985, other than the battle packs smelling like mildew it's shot fine.
    Same as all the other I have used, even the ones not sealed in heavy PVC.

    In the eaarly 2000's I was getting OHV 7.62x51 Indian ammo, 400 round cans dated mid 1970's, looked like they had been on the bottom of the Ganges.
    The bandos were a bit musty but no mold. It shot fine, kinda smokey though.
    There were a couple of cans that looked really bad and had to be beaten open with a hammer, thought for sure I wasted $25 on those but the ammo inside was GTG.

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    I will not try to Cliff Note the following 2015 thread from a CMP users forum. I found the chemistry discussion in post #6 to be interesting and informative. Warning: the post is very technical, and the author of the post has strong opinions about safety issues.

    https://forums.thecmp.org/showthread.php?t=157820
    Yankee refugee living in the free state of West Virginia.

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